So I got some really good news from my year head this week- one of my previous lecturers could take me on to help out with the second years schools project! I had actually considered contacting him before – he does facilitation and film work, and I was really keen for that – but my flatmate is in second year and I didn’t want to invade his space. It was made clear that we would be working as separately as possible, so that was all ok.
My enquiry was finalised earlier this week; I am learning some basic technical skills for performance, but my enquiry is about the documentation of a process; I am interested in how a performance influences the documentation itself, and also how my knowledge of film will influence my documentation practice.
I was asked to hire out a video camera the day before coming in; this made me really excited, having wanted to look at film from the start of the module. It turns out that this year the schools project is very tech-heavy – mostly projection, with a live camera feed – and some assistance would be required setting everything up and running it throughout the project. My first task was to set up a live feed in the space using one of the three cameras – the big DV camera and my two handycams – and set up another separate projector for one of the groups. This was exciting, if a little nerve-wracking; I had no idea how to make a live feed happen, and I knew from experience that the school has limited technical resources.
The big DV camera looked a bit like this.
I had to switch cameras a few times because of the DV camera didn’t have the cables to run with the school’s setup, but fortunately the handycam I hired out from the AV Store could connect to the schools projector with no bother. I will have to find replacements for tomorrow, however, as the AV store needs everything back by 12 tomorrow and we’re in for 10. We may have to go without, but I will book the kit out again for next week and email the AV store and ask about longer scart cables, as the feed would need to be closer to the actual performance space; currently it’s right in the corner of the space, which doesn’t really work for the show. I will also look into hooking my camera into the laptop in the space; I have the cable for that, but again it is very short.
These wee guys are a godsend for any small film job.
After the break I was asked to help one group with filming some short scenes. My role was very much a supportive one; I pointed the camera, counted down and hit record. I did not make decisions on what I filmed or how I filmed it – this made sense given my role in the project; I am there to assist, not to direct, and the second years are being assessed on how they shape the work in the group. I was relieved with how the group worked; they were very clear about what they wanted, both from me and from their performers. The filming went very smoothly – at one point I went for a short walk outside; the group are going to speed up the footage, so the 7 minutes of recording should only last a few seconds. Once I got back I returned the camera and was caught by Mrs Bestow, the class’ teacher. She went over what she knew about the basics of the lighting rig; I have been asked to possibly tech the show, which would mean understanding the lighting rig. Maybe tomorrow at some point when the hall is clear or we are using it then I will try and map out the rig – if we have a written record of which light is controlled by which switch then we can set them more easily. I am slightly worried about the dimmers in the tech booth; they were making a fairly ominous humming noise, and there was an error message on the lighting board when I looked at it. I will take a note of it if I see it again and will investigate further – and possibly look for a way to help if I can.
This is the exact rig we’re working with. I want to figure it out soon.
After lunch I was very much focused on the projections for the afternoon – one group had the extra projector and seemed to have a clear idea for what they wanted and so I left them to it, instead focusing on the groups that needed the live feed and the pre-recorded footage respectively. This afternoon required a fair amount of problem solving; both performances worked perfectly well on their own but there were some issues with file formats; the camera that had been used for the footage was not compatible with any of my cables and the files on the SD card weren’t compatible with my cameras. There was not an SD card reader on the laptop so we had to send in reinforcements; thankfully Mrs Bestow lent us her USB stick so we could play the files without much of a hitch; I had to manually switch the files instead of autoplaying them because the computer could not cope with the size of the files. This was not a massive hindrance and the group performed well – though thankfully they are editing the footage separately; I have offered assistance but as it’s their work I don’t think I should do the editing for them.
Maybe an SD card reader would be a good investment for future projects.
The live feed would have went well once I figured out the setup except that I was asked to document the performance as it happened; I tried to record from the camera dedicated to the live feed, which caused the live feed to cut out. Maybe I should have used my other camera, which was sitting behind me unused. I will bear that in mind next time I document this work.
I have some recordings of the sharings this afternoon, which I am in the process of uploading to Dropbox; I am unhappy with the footage. I had a terrible idea to zoom into the space and to occasionally follow the movement, which in hindsight is just really messy and doesn’t work for a performance reference; the audience’s eyes can’t zoom, so the camera shouldn’t either. Also my hands were shaking at this point, and it is very evident when I zoom in; I should really invest in a tripod for my personal handycam to avoid the shaking – and also if I decide to track movement I can make it smoother this way.
We had a lengthy debrief after the P7 class was dismissed; I was at this point really tired and overstimulated, so can’t really remember much of what happened or what was said, but I do remember trying to speak and not being able to make sense until prompted. I do remember making a point about coherence; the groups this year have merged some of their performances, which has made the piece flow really well, and made me think of the group as one large group rather than a selection of smaller ones, which I believe is a good thing because nothing feels out of place.
On the way home today I felt absolutely shattered, and I know that’s because I was so busy; I was on my feet for the majority of today, and I did everything from small tasks like blutacking the plan to the wall, to more essential tasks like making the live feed work. What I find interesting is that none of these jobs seemed unimportant, even though they were not necesarily big tasks; they were all things I was at least vaguely familiar with and were straightforward, but they were all important to the work. Had I not helped with the filming and the projection then at least one group would have had difficulty showing their work, which would mean that nobody could picture exactly how it would look in the space. The group would also have had less time to connect; while one person from the group at a time was being recorded, the others were having a check-in, and they all mentioned they were nervous. This lead to them all wanting to support each other and feeling validated, because everyone was feeling the same way. There may not have been space for that sharing if I had not been helping out.
I’ve realised that I know a lot more about tech than I thought; I can hook up a projector easily and am comfortable with various video outputs, which a lot of people I talked to today were unsure about. I’ve somehow also picked up the habit of automatically looking at the cables provided with an appliance to see what it connects to and how; this is a very important thing that I hope will continue to be useful to me.
Though I’ve only been involved in the Easterhouse project one day so far, I’m really excited to go back tomorrow. Today I felt very useful, and was an important member of the team – I’ve not really felt like that before. It was nice to be recognised by some of the staff as well.
Tony Chestnut is a bloody weird game, though.